Reading Between Blinken’s Li(n)es

Losses on both sides were profound — U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken, May 25 press conference with Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu in Israel, AlJazeera. (All of the following li(n)es were uttered during the same press conference.)

Yes. Losses were profound. But not on both sides. On one side, among Palestinians, of whom 253 were killed, including 66 children, and 2,000 injured, including 200 who may suffer from long-term disability. None of this would’ve happened if it wasn’t for the continuing U.S. policy of showering Israel with unconditional military, diplomatic and political support.

Casualties are often reduced to numbers. — Antony Blinken

Well that depends on whether you’re looking for details or not. Let’s go behind some of these numbers Blinken is referring to, starting with Bashar Ahmad Ibrahim Samour.

Bashar was just 17 years old when Israeli forces targeted him with the help of the United States’ continuing bipartisan silence of mass destruction, which currently amounts to $3.8 billion of military aid, every year. That’s almost $500,000 of U.S. taxpayer dollars spent every hour of every day on the Occupation and resulting atrocities committed by Israel on Palestinians like Bashar.

Bashar was killed on the morning of May 12 with two gunshot wounds to the right side of his chest. At 10 a.m. to be precise. Bashar worked as a farmer and “was connecting irrigation pipes about 500 meters from the fence when he was shot and killed. Relatives working with him at the time transported him to a hospital in Khan Younis where he was pronounced dead on arrival.” If you search the web for a picture, you’ll find one of him strapping a camera and smiling, wearing a pink hibiscus flower in his hair.

According to Defense for Children International (DCI) – Palestine, 16-year-old Rashid Mohammad Rashid Abu Arra, was shot and killed by Israeli forces on May 13th in Ramallah, in the village of Aqaba, in the occupied West Bank. Occupation forces entered his village to conduct “search and arrest operations,” and Rashid was shot from behind, sustaining “two gunshot wounds to his upper and middle back.”

I underscored to the prime minister something that president Biden made crystal clear throughout the violence. The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks such as the thousands of rockets fired by Hamas indiscriminately against Israeli civilians. — Antony Blinken

On May 10, 16-year-old Ibrahim Abdullah Mohammad Hassanain and 11-year-old Hussein Muneer Hussein Hamad were killed in Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip in a blast. It has still not been determined whether they died as a result of Israeli drones and warplanes that were reportedly flying overhead, or if they were victims of  rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups toward Israel that fell short. But to Ibrahim and Muneer and their families it doesn’t matter how they died. What matters is that they died as a result of 73 years of the United States’ $146 billion silence of mass destruction.

At 8 p.m. on May 19, in Jabalia, in the northern Gaza Strip, 10-year-old Dima Sa’d Ali Asaliya who, according to her uncle, had gone to her sister’s house to get an electric cooker that her family often borrows to bake bread, was walking back home with it when she was struck and killed by an Israeli drone on the street between their two houses. Her little body was “covered in shrapnel wounds.” In the photo I used as a reference to embroider her outline portrait, you can see her hands decorated in henna, framing one side of her smiling face. 

According to DCI, 2-year-old Mariam Mohammad Odeh Talbani, “had been missing and presumed dead since May 12 until her body was located in rubble” on the 21st, nine days after the building she lived in with her family was demolished in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City’s Tal Al-Hawa neighborhood. The attack also killed her 4-year-old brother Zaid, and her 5-month-pregnant mother Rima.

These are just six out of the 66 children’s stories illustrated here. No, not those kind of children’s stories that we, those whose taxes feed our government’s apartheid-friendly silence, read to our children 6700 miles away, but the ones our corporate, biased media don’t bother to inform us about.

As the prime minister mentioned we had a detailed discussion about Israel’s security needs including replenishing Iron Dome. — Antony Blinken

Replenishing Iron Dome” indeed. Maybe the focus on Israel’s missile defense system has something to do with the fact that Israel was caught off guard by the Palestinian resistance, with their bodies and rocks in hand ready to use for self-defense, in response to Israel’s increasing attempts of ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem; the rockets that were launched by Hamas and other resistance factions after Israel refused to meet their demands that included withdrawing its military forces from the Al-Aqsa mosque and from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood — all of which led to the latest round of hostilities. 

Why rocks for self-defense? Because remember, the United States believes that Palestinians, unlike Israeli’s, neither have a right to any, leave alone $3.8 billion of its military aid, nor a right to defend themselves against Israeli military and settler violence.

As Ali Abunimah, the co-founder of The Electronic Intifada said recently in an interview with theAnalysis.news that “the goal was to break the popular resistance in Jerusalem so that the settler march could go through the old city and Israel could show who’s boss, but it failed to do that, and Israel was forced into a humiliating retreat.” He added that “the miscalculation Israel made is that they thought that they had fragmented the Palestinian people so much” that they were a broken people. But the truth is that “Palestinians throughout historic Palestine are in common resistance to Israel, the settler colonial occupying state. So they are fighting from Gaza. People are resisting in the West Bank, they’re resisting in Jerusalem, and for the first time in decades, there is a broad uprising among Palestinian citizens of Israel.”

We know that to prevent a return to violence we have to use the space created to address a larger set of underlying issues and challenges. And that begins with tackling the great humanitarian situation in Gaza and starting to rebuild. — Antony Blinken

Bravo, Blinken! And if you have to break things down to numbers, maybe you can start by responding to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) appeal by defunding Israel and handing over about 2.5 percent of the monies — $95 million — to them? They need it for “immediate humanitarian and early recovery responses for the coming 3 months, requesting… to address the needs of 1.1 million Palestinians, in the areas of protection, health, water and sanitation, education and food security.” You can go here to access the breakdown of needs.

A Dark Earth Day

Part 2 of Human Miasma

embroidery and graphite on khadi

The New Dealpart of the Green New Deal is mostly good and necessary. But the Greenpart has a big hole at its center: the lack of a direct mechanism to rapidly reduce the use of fossil fuels in the economy; therefore, it cannot guarantee their elimination on a crash deadline. It relies instead on an erroneous assumption that an industrial mobilization to build up non-fossil energy capacity will automatically eliminate fossil fuels and other sources of greenhouse emissions through the magic of the market. It also ignores the heavy ecological and humanitarian impacts of all greenindustrial means of energy generation, including wind, solar, and (especially) hydroelectric power. It embodies the worst of technology-dependent magical thinking. — Stan Cox, author of The Green New Deal and Beyond (City Lights, 2020). 

The Green New Deal (GND) and its vision to address the threat of climate emergency is an idea born out of an elite imagination. Its provisions for jobs, workers’ rights, racial justice, economic equality, social safety nets, and universal health care, laudable as they are, serve as sugar coating for a massive industrial stimulus program that is incapable of achieving a phase-out of fossil fuels and will likely juice greater emissions. 

When I think “Green” I think growth. Something to be harvested, and whose value has always been measured not by its usefulness to its own existence and in harmony with the ecosphere it inhabits, but by its usefulness to the myriad product-designs of our harvesting eyes. Green has became a “left” color for a cause, a movement, a public policy proposal. Just another (maybe a darker) Green product. But a product nonetheless.

We tend to forget that there would be nothing green on this planet if it wasn’t for the brown: the soil that births what’s left of the lower-case green around us. Call it The Old Brown Steal: an arrangement for the continuation of a certain human lifestyle for a certain type of human. 

In fact, there would be no green left on this planet if it wasn’t for Brown, indigenous fighters like Berta Cáceres, who stood between the corporation Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA) and her peoples’ sacred and precious body of water — the Gualcarque river, and was assassinated defending it. What a heavy price to pay for Green.

Capital must build in increasingly unsafe locations after the safest locations are used up… This is true for the construction of dams just as it is true for fossil fuels. It is also true for the location of solar arrays and the location of wind farms. It is likewise the case for mining the massive number of minerals that go into the production of various type of energy. This is why alternativeenergy cannot be cleanor renewable.Perhaps it is time to realize that there is only one form of cleanenergy – less energy. — Don Fitz,From the Murder of Berta Cáceres to Dam Disaster in Uttarakhand, Green Social Thought, March 2.

March 2 marked the five-year anniversary of the murder of Berta Cáceres, an Earth defender and indigenous Lenca from Honduras. DESA’s design was to plant the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque. It took many Brown lives, including Berta’s, to stall the construction of an “alternative” form of energy. For now. 

“Alternative energy” sounds like another genre of music — very groovy, but still very much part of the capitalist system. Capital, no matter how Green, has always plucked pieces of the brown earth to keep the engines of extraction greased and moving. It keeps plucking another piece, and another, and another, till a Brown person like Cáceres and millions like her who have had enough stand in its way with their bodies like juggernauts of resistance, an extension of the brown beneath their feet, if you will. And so they must be plucked as well.

Cáceres was murdered for standing in the way of Green energy. And since August, 2019, about 1900 miles away, someone else is still living under house arrest for standing in the way of fossil fuels.

Making Chevron and other companies clean up the messes created by their oil production will speed the transition away from fossil fuels, according to Rex Weyler, an environmental advocate who co-founded Greenpeace International and directed the original Greenpeace Foundation. ‘If hydrocarbon companies are forced to pay for the true costs of their product, which include these environmental costs, it will make the alternative energy systems more competitive.’ The Intercept, January 29.

embroidery and graphite on khadi

A public defender and life-long crusader for the rights of indigenous people and farmers of the Amazon rain forest, Steven Donziger has also paid a heavy price for standing in between the oil-drilling interests of Chevron and the complete devastation of the Lago Agrio region of Ecuador. The corporation in question didn’t take Donziger’s life like they did Cáceras’ but took everything else away from him including his law license, his bank account, his passport, and other things. They did leave him with one thing though: an electronic monitoring device around his ankle that “he calls ‘the black claw,’” and that feels to him like “the government still there on my ankle.” 

This is how capital works with its gradations of injustice. If you’re a Brown earth defender like Cáceres and living among the green, the government will mow you down. If you’re a white earth defender like Donziger and live far away from the green, the government clasps itself around your ankle and destroys your life. Either way, governments are still puppets in the hands of corporations like DESA and Chevron and will continue to play to their tune, alternative or otherwise, unless something drastic is done about it. Revolution anyone?

Justice for George Floyd’s lynching doesn’t end with the gaveling of Chauvin’s guilty verdict but with the gaveling down of institutional racism and violence. Similarly, climate justice won’t end with gradations of Green, alternative energy fixes, but as Cox says, with a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels.

Meanwhile in the dungeons of the U.S. Congress:

While we are clear that people should not come to the border now, we also understand that we will enforce the law and that we also — because we can chew gum and walk at the same time — must address the root causes that cause people to make the trek. — Kamala Harris, “Kamala Harris gets high-profile, politically fraught immigration assignment,” Washington Post, March 25.

Really, Kamala? Wanna get to the “root causes” of “the trek?” How about starting with the economic consequences of the 2009 coup in Honduras and United States’ role in keeping it fed and intact? How’s that for Green?

We’re still far from recognizing our elite theft of the planet’s resources as the Old Brown Steal and are stuck on Green. Why else would someone like Rex Weyler talk about “alternative energy systems” being “more competitive” like as if that’s a good thing? This imagination, so far, lacks the ability to limit the usefulness of the green toward a landscape where there is sufficiency for all and excess for none. Something not driven by competition but by accountability and fairness and justice for all.

Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Injustice Industrial Complex; part 1 of Human Miasma

Earth Abuse and the Next Pandemic

By Stan Cox

Human Miasma, embroidery and graphite on khadi

Humanity’s transgression of ecological limits has caused widespread damage, including a climate emergency, catastrophic loss of biodiversity, and extensive degradation of soils around the world. Earth abuse is also at the root of the Covid-19 pandemic and the grim possibility that new pathogens will continue to emerge from other animal species to infect humans.

Cultivation, deforestation, mining, livestock raising, and other activities degrade and destroy wildlife habitat, leaving animals no choice but to move closer to humans, potentially bringing pathogens along with them. Suburban sprawl and tourism (especially “eco-tourism”) also bring humans and wildlife closer together. Hunting involves the most intimate contact with wild animals; indeed, the prevailing hypothesis is that the hunting of horseshoe bats probably kicked off the chain of events that led to the current coronavirus pandemic. 

Humans have lived with domestic animals for millennia, and our bodies may have learned how to deal with the pathogens passed back and forth. But when ecosystems are disturbed or encroached upon, novel zoonotic viruses can move from wildlife into domestic animals and from there into humans. There is strong circumstantial evidence that the 1918-19 influenza pandemic, which killed more than 675,000 Americans and as many as 50 million worldwide, began with the flu virus jumping from swine into humans in Haskell County, Kansas, moving on to what is now Fort Riley with new army recruits, and from there reaching the battlefields of World War 1.  

The horrific wildfires that were ignited across Southeast Asia for land-clearing in 1997-98, combined with a regional drought, killed off many fruit-bearing trees in the forests of Malaysia. Fleeing the dead forests, fruit bats found sustenance in domestic orchards, bringing with them the Nipah virus. Swine being raised within the orchards became infected through the bats’ virus-laden droppings and passed the virus on to the people who handled them. Nipah brings high mortality among both hogs and human population, killing approximately 50 percent of the people it infects.     

We saw during the past year that once the new coronavirus gained a foothold in our species, the modern human propensity for long-distance travel quickly turned local outbreaks into a pandemic. Air conditioning, another technology with severe climate effects, was also implicated in Covid-19 outbreaks. Summertime, a season in which respiratory viruses typically wane, instead saw dramatic infection peaks throughout the Sun Belt as people escaped the heat and gathered in tightly enclosed, air-conditioned spaces. 

Vacation cruises, which should have been banned decades ago given their exploitation of workers and heavy effect on the oceans and atmosphere, hosted some of the worst early outbreaks. The industrial meat industry, despoiler of soils and water, prolific emitter of greenhouse gases, also turned out to be an efficient viral incubator. 

In some cases, greenhouse warming itself creates conditions for spread of zoonotic infection. In East and North Africa, for example, droughts have become more frequent and intense thanks to climate change. Many pastoralists have responded by replacing their cattle herds with camels, which, famously, can survive for long stretches of time without access to water. As a result, much larger numbers of camels are now in close contact with humans in the region. Worryingly, the coronavirus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome is circulating in dromedary camel populations in several countries in the region. 

MERS originated in bats, has become endemic in camels, and then over the past decade has repeatedly made the jump from camels into humans. It does not spread as readily from person to person as the Covid-19 virus, but it is orders of magnitude more deadly. Of approximately 2,500 people who have been infected by the MERS virus since 2012, one-third have died. As droughts worsen, farmers and herders take their camels on increasingly long journeys in search of forage. Trips often extend for days, and, without fuel for fire building, the herders often must sleep close to the camels for warmth. For want of fire and water, they also may sustain themselves by drinking the camels’ milk raw. All of this increases the risk of virus transmission.

We may wriggle out from under the Covid-19 pandemic by year’s end, but we won’t be in the clear. It is likely that we will continue to encounter novel coronaviruses. Never before the year 2000 were coronaviruses known to emerge from bats into human populations and cause highly lethal disease in humans. In the two decades since, however, there have been three such events, involving SARS-CoV-1, which caused the 2002-2004 “severe acute respiratory syndrome” (SARS) pandemic; MERS-CoV, which causes MERS; and SARS-CoV-2, the cause of Covid-19. 

In a 2020 article in the journal Cell, David Morens and Anthony Fauci – yes, that Dr. Fauci – wrote that as we continue disrupting the ecosphere, pathogens are finding their way into human populations with increasing frequency: “The COVID-19 pandemic is yet another reminder, added to the rapidly growing archive of historical reminders, that in a human-dominated world, in which our human activities represent aggressive, damaging, and unbalanced interactions with nature, we will increasingly provoke new disease emergences. We remain at risk for the foreseeable future. COVID-19 is among the most vivid wake-up calls in over a century. It should force us to begin to think in earnest and collectively about living in more thoughtful and creative harmony with nature, even as we plan for nature’s inevitable, and always unexpected, surprises.”

Our encroachment on the ecosphere has opened a Pandora’s box. In addition to the viruses causing SARS, MERS, and Covid-19, some of the other bat coronaviruses studied so far have all the necessary pathogenic tools for attacking humans, and they have been shown to infect and sicken laboratory mice. According to a paper authored by a national group of ten researchers in the field, there are “enormous groups of bat coronaviruses distributed globally,” and many, like SARS-CoV-2, are “functionally preadapted” to infecting humans. That preadaptation may be related to similarities among bats, minks, cats, humans, and some other mammalian species in our lung-cell membranes’ susceptibility to entry by this group of viruses. 

There’s more. Since 2017, another coronavirus – emerging, like the Covid-19 and SARS viruses, from horseshoe bats – has been triggering deadly outbreaks among piglets in China. In the laboratory, the new bug appears to have the genetic potential to infect human airway and intestinal cells. Three different coronaviruses that cause severe disease in cattle, horses, and swine are closely related to another virus that has long been causing the common cold in humans. These livestock viruses may acquire, through genetic exchange, the ability to infect us. 

Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about the propensity of different coronavirus strains to engage in recombination, that is, to swap blocks of genetic code with one another. Reportedly, the code for shaping the “spike” protein that allows the virus to enter host cells is especially prone to recombination, raising concerns that code for versions of the spike that can serve as “keys” for opening human cells to infection could pass from human pathogens like the Covid-19 or common-cold viruses into livestock viruses. The latter might thereby acquire the ability to infect the people who work around them. In researchers’ words, “[C]oronaviruses can change rapidly, drastically, and unpredictably via recombination with both known and unknown lineages.”

The ten scientists who warned that coronaviruses are functionally preadapted to the human body further stressed that their data “reaffirm what has long been obvious: that future coronavirus transmissions into humans are not only possible, but likely. Scientists knew this years ago and raised appropriate alarm. Our prolonged deafness now exacts a tragic price.”

What’s good for the ecosphere is good for human health, and we are not helpless victims. Escaping ecological catastrophe and reducing the frequency of pandemics that might be lurking in the decades ahead is well within our capability, but it will require assiduous respect for ecological limits and great restraint in our interactions with nature.   

Stan Cox is the author of The Green New Deal and Beyond (2020) and the upcoming The Path to a Livable Future: Forging a New Politics to Fight Climate Change, Racism, and the Next Pandemic.

This article was originally published by The Land Institute’s Land Report.

Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Injustice Industrial Complex

Part 1 of Human Miasma

As his 67th birthday nears, and Pennsylvania political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal faces challenging and potentially fatal health crises, his legal case is still slowly winding its way through the arduous appellate court system. — New court filings for Abu-Jamal’s appeal, Workers World, March 22.

chain stitch embroidery and graphite on khadi

Injustice is an industry in the United States of America, just like militarism and prisons. An inorganic perennial landscape irrigated by lies, silence, deception, fossil fuels, white-freedom-weapons and the victimization of black and brown people. A rhizomatous perpetual motion machine whose oozing pus fertilizes itself and keeps going.

This industry is undemocratic and bipartisan. It uses words like freedom and dreams and green to describe the journey. 

Don’t be fooled. There’s nothing free and dreamy and green about this journey. It is in fact shackled and nightmarish and grey, rooted in the oxymoronic and popular yet fantastical belief in infinite human potential on a finite planet. This potential, still needs a piece of the planet to thrive. And if we turn around to face the diabolically long and wide landscape, we might get a sense of the human miasma in this journey of injustice. We might see Mumia Abu-Jamal, somewhere in the distance, 39-40 years ago. Like a lotus blooming through the muck.

Conventional wisdom would have us believe that it is insane to resist this, the mightiest of empires, but what history really shows is that todays empire is tomorrows ashes; that nothing lasts forever, and that to not resist is to acquiesce in your own oppression. The greatest form of sanity that anyone can exercise is to resist that force that is trying to repress, oppress, and fight down the human spirit. — political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, Incarcerated at SCI Mahanoy, Pennsylvania; his twelfth book, “the sweeping historical polemic, Murder Incorporated: Empire, Genocide, and Manifest Destiny marks a historic pinnacle for Abu-Jamal as a writer and critic of the American Empire.”

We don’t need some unreal green message from the future where everyone is living off the fat of the land. Maybe we’re going about it all wrong and need to stop and look back instead of looking forward. Maybe the answer to the human miasma lies there? In a small piece of the planet-past. Maybe then it will hit us. That solutionism itself needs a piece of the earth, and the end result will be more violence, more displacement and death and devastation. Not less. 

Mumia and his story sits on one of those pieces of the planet-past. Forgotten and neglected in our liberal quest for quenching immediate injustices, and future ones. All Black Lives Matter. Not just those who the state and white supremacists kill instantly, but also those that the state kills slowly. Like Mumia. 

The state wants Mumia to die… Congestive heart failure…Covid-19 breathing difficulties…Organ failure of the skin… Unrelenting skin eruptions are causing damaged, ruptured, leathery, dry, exposed wounds. Not one spot on his body is free of dry cracked and bloody open wounds… The message from his personal physician, Dr. Ricardo Alvarez, could not be clearer, ‘Freedom is the only treatment.’Prison Radio, March 9.

What the system has done to Mumia’s life, his body, his mind, his words, to me encapsulates the dark nature of this miasmic journey: a microcosmic example of what we’re continuing to do to the earth, in a corner of which we planted a state that planted a system that planted an injustice industrial complex that planted the prison industrial complex that planted Pennsylvania prisons that planted Mumia, an innocent man inside it, “still writing by hand and on a plastic typewriter — no computers are allowed”…

…and that planted the trial judge Albert Sabo and the infamous six words that he was “going to help them fry the ‘n***r’.”

White supremacy is an ideology that gets its message across using very few words, and represents one of the darkest greys in the grey scale of the human miasma. But those six words of judge Sabo, for example, bring home the limits of the human potential. That the poison (if you’re a white supremacist) or elixir (if you’re a liberal human supremacist) is always going to be sought through violent means no matter how hard or how light your blow to the planet and the ecosphere: something always moving forward; something extractive; some more pieces of the planet; and the piece that still holds the forgotten freedom for Mumia.

Mumia’s freedom isn’t the freedom you and I are used to and that we take for granted. It’s the real thing: something that has to be unjustly snatched away from you first and then never granted if the system continues to have its way. Our freedom is part of the miasma. An illusion. It’s meaningless if we don’t use it to fight for someone else’s. 

But yes, freedom is the only treatment. Freedom for Mumia by other fellow humans. And freedom for the earth, from human superiority. 

It’s time to let go of the idea of infinite human potential and let the planet breathe. Let Mumia breathe. That’s one of the few things that we can do that’s within our modest human potential. Our mobilization for freedom of political prisoners like Mumia will actually plant something beautiful and non-violent on this planet without taking a piece of it away.

Your support, from Philadelphia to France, from points across the nation and literally around the globe, has pulled me from a prison cell and placed me in a hospital room to be treated for a condition I didn’t know I had. In the age of pandemic… as of January 2021, over 300,000 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19. Imagine that… Imagine an elder man, or a woman, or even a young person, because yes, we are also in an age of mass incarceration which day by day increases its infliction upon the elderly, struggling unsuccessfully, to breathe. To walk. To be. I thank you all for reaching out, and I urge you all, let our mission be abolition. — ‘A Letter of Thanks’ by Mumia Abu-Jamal, Prison Radio, March 19.

Resources, updates and calls to action:

Watch the March 18 forum sponsored by the Prisoners Solidarity Committee of Workers World Party titled Mumia Abu-Jamal: The Only Treatment is His Freedom!

Prison Radio

International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal

Campaign to bring Mumia home

The fact that this case is old, 39 years old, and that an innocent man with severe health concerns, is languishing in prison makes it even more critical that you do everything in your power to make sure that justice is not delayed. — What Krasner Needs to Do!, March 18

Write to Mumia: Smart Communications/PADOC, Mumia Abu-Jamal AM 8335, SCI Mahanoy, PO Box 33028, St Petersburg, FL 33733.

“Yes I believe that prisoners deserve a voice!” Please consider making a donation to Prison Radio.

Free Sanaa Seif !

It is outrageous from the beginning that she was arrested and prosecuted instead of investigating the physical assault against her… The sentence shows the status of the Egyptian judiciary today, which is largely in the service of the political interests of the government, rather than assisting in delivering justice.” — Amr Magdi, Egypt researcher at Human Rights Watch, Middle East Eye, March 17.  

An Egyptian court has convicted the 26-year-old film editor, writer and activist Sanaa Seif on charges of spreading false news, misusing social media and insulting a police officer on duty, sentencing her to 18 months in prison. Sanaa’s sister, Mona Seif, confirmed the March 17 conviction in a tweet stating that her sister has been charged with “spreading false news related to the Covid 19 pandemic,” and “using a Facebook account to terrorize people.” This is nothing less than a travesty of justice. 

Sanaa’s brother, revolutionary activist and blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah has been held in administrative detention at Cairo’s Tara prison since September 2019. In March of the same year, he had finished serving a five year prison sentence for something he never did: organize a protest.

On June 21, 2020, Sanaa was sleeping on the pavement outside Tara prison along with her mother and sister, peacefully demonstrating their right to receive a letter from Alaa that the prison authorities were holding from them. The following morning “a group of female beltagiya (thugs) attacked” them, beating them severely and stealing most of their belongings.

On June 23 when she went to the Public Prosecutor’s Office to file a report of the incident, some plainclothes policemen grabbed and shoved her into a white minivan, abducting her. According to the site freedmfor.network, Sanaa was taken to “Egypt’s Supreme State Security Prosecution, which is notorious for detaining political opponents and critics in prolonged pre-trial detention over unfounded ‘terrorism’ charges.”

Since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power following the 2013 coup, Sanaa had been detained twice before. She is one of many thousands who have been unjustly imprisoned by the Sisi regime. 

It’s really sad that the price we had to pay for a letter from our brother who shouldn’t even be in prison, was Sanaa being beaten and arrested. So the price we had to pay for that letter was another one of our family in prison… What Sanaa would want is that we don’t loose sight of the bigger picture. To talk about all political prisoners and what the state is doing to deny them their rights and put their lives in danger. — Mona Seif, Free Sanaa, August 3, 2020.

Free Sanaa! Free Alaa!

JatiIndia Flag of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future: Thangjam Manorama

On this International Women’s Day let’s take a moment to remember one of JatiIndia’s victims, 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama from Manipur, India who was hauled out of her home at night, brutally tortured, raped and then shot dead by Indian paramilitary forces — the 17th Assam Rifles — on July 11, 2004. There were bullet wounds found in her vagina and thighs. According to The Polis Project, “Manorama’s murder was the turning point in the fight against extrajudicial encounters in Manipur, where the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) has been in effect since 1980… Since AFSPA was introduced in Naga Hills and later in Manipur and then in Jammu and Kashmir in 1990, there have been a large number of civilian deaths and human rights violations including enforced disappearances, torture in custody and extrajudicial executions.”

Part of a continuing series, each of these flags of JatiIndia (my name for this country of jatis/castes) features a face of resistance to upper-caste violence and injustice. The color orange symbolizes Hindutva politics; blue—a color historically adopted by the Dalit movement—here represents the country’s Dalits, Adivasis, Kashmiris, people of the Northeast like Thangham, and other minorities; and the bottom green bar embodies the regions ecological foundations endangered by the ideology of extractive capitalism. The circular image, replacing the Dharma Chakra (Wheel of Law), signifies the view through the crosshairs of a saffron (Hindu nationalist) gunsight.

JatiIndia Flag of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future: The Farmer We See and the Farmer We Don’t

The new farm laws will make it more difficult for farmers to earn an income, said R.S. Amaresh, a 65-year-old farmer from Renukapura village in Challakere taluk of Chitradurga district. ‘It is very difficult to survive as a farmer. There is no value for our crop. We have given up hope on agriculture. If it continues like this, a day will come when there will be no farmer.’ —  A day will come when there will be no farmer, People’s Archive of Rural India [PARI], January 27.

Whether you’re a Kashmiri or a kisan (farmer) in India growing sugarcane, wheat, rice, bajra (pearl millet), urad (black gram), toor (pigeon pea), rice, ragi (finger millet), jowar (sorghum), maize, mustard, banana, vegetables… in the fantastical eyes of the current BJP government or the private market, or Ambani or Adani or any extractive and exploitative corporation, your life and livelihood are a disposable commodity. Maximum-for-us-few and nothing for you is the maxim of the day, and those with all of their stinking power and money will deploy every violent tactic in their playbook to keep it that way. 

Security forces, road blockades, barbed wires, tear gas, water cannons, police lathis (batons), 10-feet trenches, water and electricity cut offs, that were in PARI’s words, “making it almost impossible for journalists to reach the protesting farmers, punishing a group that has already seen perhaps 200 of its own die, many from hypothermia, in the past two months,” paramilitary forces in full riot-gear with AK-47s, restrictive internet services, surveillance drones, and of course their predictably favorite one: labeling kisans who grow our food as anti-nationals — This is the violence you and me are witness to in the immediate scheme of things. But just like in every other sector, this latest assault by the Indian government and the establishment on the country’s poorest is not new. India’s agrarian crisis was set in motion a few decades ago. These new laws are just the latest pattern in a long chain of atrocious patterns.

On September 27, 2020, the central government of India passed three ag laws without any consultation with the kisans themselves. These laws would give superpowers to corporations and, kisans rightly see these laws as sabotaging an already wobbly support structure that includes the minimum support price (MSP) and the agricultural produce marketing committees (APMCs) — the system of mandis — that assures farmers procurement of their food grains; while at the same time paralyzing “the right to legal recourse of all citizens, undermining Article 32 of the Constitution of India.” 

Two months later farmers began gathering on the borders of Delhi and other parts of the country, in the streets and maidans (public spaces) to protest these new laws and make other demands including stability from fluctuating crop prices, “a dignified pension for elderly [women] farmers and farm workers… free treatment at good government hospitals… recognition of women’s labour in agriculture by giving them the status of farmers… strengthening the PDS (public distribution system) for rations,” (according to PARI), reforming APMC instead of  gutting it, long overdue land titles for Adivasi (indigenous) farmers, debt waiver, adequate storage facilities of their winter crops, freedom from agents who buy at a lower rate than the MSP because you’re at their mercy and so on and so on.

Like Ojha, many farmers in Bihar have been struggling to get better prices for their crops, especially after the state repealed the Bihar Agriculture Produce Market Act, 1960, in 2006. With that, the agricultural produce market committee (APMC) mandi system was abolished in the state. This points to what farmers in the rest of India might face with three new farm laws that were passed in September 2020. — My Troubles Begin After I Get a Good Harvest, PARI, February 20.

Part of a continuing series, each of these flags of JatiIndia (my name for this country of jatis/castes) features a face of resistance to upper-caste violence and injustice. The color orange symbolizes Hindutva politics; blue—a color historically adopted by the Dalit movement—here represents the country’s Dalits, Kashmiris, Adivasis and other minorities; and the bottom green bar embodies the regions ecological foundations endangered by the ideology of extractive capitalism. The circular image, replacing the Dharma Chakra (Wheel of Law), signifies the view through the crosshairs of a saffron (Hindu nationalist) gunsight. 

The blue strip is done in chain-stitch embroidery, illustrating the long chain of atrocities that have been carried out by JatiIndia over the years on its own people, and the people of occupied Kashmir. Each blue chain-stitch, of which there are more than twenty thousand, represents a face of resistance.

The JatiIndia flags featured here are portraits of a man farmer and a woman farmer surrounded by their crops and maati (soil) and water. That’s the front of the embroidery, representing a romanticized version of India, easy on the eye, where the ecosystem might seem a little disturbed but not threatened to the point of annihilation. And that’s why I’ve also included the back of the embroidery which I hope might communicate that which we don’t see and that which has been happening for decades in rural India — the systemic and institutional structure of violent government policies that have left us processing statements like that of R.S. Amaresh: “If it continues like this, a day will come when there will be no farmer.”  

This matrix stitches together a simultaneous kaleidoscopic pattern — one carefully crafted and intentional and the other its opposite. It’s of course impossible for us to see both, the easy front and the hard back at the same time. And we never will. Not unless we are willing to give up our lifestyles that rest on the backs of farmers like Amaresh and Ojha. They are what we eat. 

Why did [migrants] leave their villages in the first place to come [to the city]? And that was something called the agrarian crisis, which the media chooses to underplay, ignore, until it cannot…[and] what is rural distress? Rural distress is not just about agriculture… The handlooms plus handicrafts sector is the biggest employer in your country [after agriculture]… You know, if you look at the farm suicides, youll find, in many parts of this country, farmer suicides were preceded by weaver suicides… Why? When the farmers went bankrupt, the weavers lost their [first] market… These are allied professions… Your carpenters, weavers, potters, honey-hunters, fisherman – all those people are in your agrarian economy… So, if the economy of agriculture tanks, they are finished… When the lockdown came, people were making their way back to the villages, looking for those livelihoods which India had spent the last 25 years killing… What did COVID-19 do for you? It did a complete and thorough 100% autopsy on the society you are, on neoliberalism, on capitalist development under neoliberal capitalism; every nerve, sinew, bone, artery, vein is on display where its very ugly, including the maggots… Thats why Ive said often, the UPA [past government] was the gang that couldnt shoot straight. The NDA[current administration] is the gang that cant stop shooting. Every direction, everywhere, anything it can hit. — Farm Bills Will Create a Vacuum That May Result in Utter Chaos: P. Sainath, The Wire, September 23, 2020.

JatiIndia Flag of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future: Munawar Faruqui

The intruder [Gaur] was referring not to a joke Faruqui had just made, but one that hed uploaded on YouTube in April 2020. It referenced Rama, a widely worshipped Hindu deity, and his wife Sita. O Lord, my beloved, has come home,” Faruqui starts, dropping lyrics from an enormously popular Bollywood song in which a woman celebrates the return of her lover. Then comes the punchline: Ramji dont give a f-ck about your beloved.” The audience erupts. He says, I myself havent returned home for fourteen years.” — How An Indian Stand Up Comic Found Himself Arrested for a Joke He Didn’t Tell, TIME, February 10.

It seems for India’s ruling BJP government and its tentacles, like Eklavya Singh Gaur–the son of BJP legislator Malini Gaur–Rama and Sita, holy cows, and all things Hindu,are just a convenient catalyst to carry out atrocities against Faruqui and other Indian Muslims, smothering their voices and making their lives a living hell.

On New Year’s Day this year, 29-year-old Faruqui was set to perform in a café in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, when he was approached by Gaur, who accused him of hurting the fragile sentiments of Hindus like him. By the end of the evening, after a lot of back and forth among Faruqui, his audience supporters and Gaur, he was arrested by the police along with the show’s producer Edwin Anthony, its host Nalin Yadav, its opening performer Prakhar Vyas and his 17-year-old brother. A few days later, the police also arrested a friend of Faruqui, Sadaqat Khan. 

Since Vyas’s brother was a minor, he got bail before anyone else. Faruqui was released on bail on February 6, and a few days after that Anthony and Vyas were also granted bail. Yadav and Khan are still in jail.

Part of a continuing series, these JatiIndia Flags feature a face of resistance to upper-caste violence and injustice at the center of a modified flag of India. The color orange symbolizes Hindutva politics; blue—a color historically adopted by the Dalit movement—here represents the country’s Dalits, Kashmiris, Adivasis and other minorities; the bottom green bar embodies the regions ecological foundations endangered by the ideology of extractive capitalism; the circular image, replacing the Dharma Chakra (Wheel of Law) signifies the view through the crosshairs of a saffron (Hindu nationalist) gunsight. 

The blue strip is done in chain-stitch embroidery, illustrating the long chain of atrocities that have been carried out by JatiIndia over the years on its own people, and the people of occupied Kashmir. Each blue chain-stitch, of which there are more than twenty thousand, represents a face of resistance. 

My name is Munawar Iqbal Faruqui. I was born and brought up in Gujarat. I survived Gujarat. I had delivered this joke, and folks got upset… so I wrote a sequence joke. That I think I survived because I believe the government is not good in completing their target. Ten months back they said, well beat you up. Im still alive. — Full Video Before Comedian Munawar Faruqui’s Arrest, Indore, The Newsters, January 2.

This JatiIndia flag features a portrait of Faruqui and all that he stands for and for which he is a target: he was born a Muslim, he grew up poor, he’s young and good looking, funny and intelligent, and he jokes about surviving the 2002 Gujarat pogrom.

Between February 28 and March 2, 2002, sixteen of Gujarat’s twenty-four districts were engulfed in unspeakable mob violence unleashed upon Muslims—children, babies, women, men, and elderly alike. Mobs of five to ten thousand people armed with swords, trishuls, lathis, agricultural implements, stones, acid bulbs, bottles, petrol bombs, and burning cloth balls were let loose on helpless residents. According to The Citizens for Justice and Peace’s tally, as many as 1,926 people lost their lives in violence that erupted after the Godhra train tragedy in which 59 people—mostly kar sevaks (right-wing nationalist volunteers)—were burnt alive.

Faruqui is free. For now. 

The series so far: portrait of Masrat Zahra, January 9; portrait of Manisha Valmiki, December 24, 2020; portrait of Anand Teltumbde, December 13, 2020; portraits of Ram Chander Chhatrapati, Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M. M. Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh, Shantanu Bhowmick and Kancha Ilaiah, October 16, 2017; portrait of the sang-bazan (stone pelters), Kashmir, August 15, 2017; portrait of the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom, March 1, 2017; portrait of Teesta Setalvad, February 10, 2017; portraits of Afzal Guru’s wife and son, and a pellet-gun victim, Kashmir, December 23, 2016; portraits of Vinay Sirohi with his wife, Shaista Hameed and Danish Farooq, and Lingaram Kodopi,  March 29, 2016; portrait of Rohith Vemula, March 29, 2016.

Freedomwashing

We make equipment, we give it to our so-called allies [in the Middle East], who we dont even know who the hell they are… 2,300 Humvees sent over. A couple of shots are fired and these guys run like a bunch of thieves, which they are. Our allies. Our allies. And ISIS picks up the weapons, the Humvees, the this. Its just incredible.” — Donald Trump, Des Moines Register, November 13, 2015.

Around the time when then-Republican candidate Donald Trump was talking about Humvees and thieving allies, women in Saudi Arabia were doing two things for the first time: voting and standing in elections. Loujain al-Hathloul was one of them. But her name was never added to the historic ballot. Fate had something else in store for this 31-year-old Saudi Arabian human-rights activist. 

Loujain realized that she was imprisoned with women who were sent to this ‘care home’ for simply ‘disobeying’ their male guardians. The Saudi government sees these women as delinquents. Our sister realized that freedom for these women wouldn’t come from just being able to drive, but to be free from male guardianship. — Lina and Alia al-Hathloul, sisters of Loujain al-Hathloul, Marie Claire, January 11.

Loujain first attempted to drive a car in Saudi Arabia in November 2014 when she drove from the United Arab Emirates into Saudi Arabia in defiance of the ban on women driving. She was arrested on December 1 by Saudi authorities and incarcerated for 73 days at the Dar al Reaya (care home). A time when, as her sisters Lina and Alia recall, Loujain “increased her activism.” Then in 2016, she, along with other activists organized a campaign calling for an end to the kingdom’s male guardianship system. 

Loujain was arrested on May 15, 2018 for her women’s rights advocacy, including Saudi women’s right to drive. According to Middle East Eye, she was rounded up along with “at least a dozen other women activists, just weeks before the decades-long ban on female drivers was lifted.” They were charged with allegations of communicating “with people and entities hostile to the king,” cooperating with “journalists and media institutions hostile to the king,” providing “financial support to foreign adversaries” and recruiting “persons for information detrimental to the security of the kingdom.” In other words, Loujain and her activist friends were charged with threatening the freedom of the kingdom. Freedom to suffocate their women subjects. Their rights. Their dignity. 

According to Lina and Alia, during the first 50 days of her pre-trial detention, Loujain was tortured. Besides keeping her in solitary confinement for a major part of that time, the Saudi authorities threatened, in their words ‘to rape our sister, to chop her body into pieces, and to throw her in the sewage system. They flogged her, waterboarded her, electrocuted her, and sexually assaulted her.”

Loujain’s father Hathloul al-Hathloul tweeted about the torture and sexual harassment, after which his account was suspended by Twitter. This is video of Loujain driving in October 2103, filmed by her father.

The United States government knows all about torture techniques like waterboarding and solitary confinement. That’s American freedom. That’s kingdom freedom.

It is utterly grotesque that at the same time Saudi authorities will host a motor sport event – including women drivers – while the heroes that won their right to drive languish in jail.  — Loujain’s supporters calling for the boycott of the Dakar Rally, The Guardian, January 5.

An annual motorsport event called the Dakar Rally dates back to 1979. The Paris-Dakar Rally moved to South America in 2008 due to terror threats in Mauritania, where it was supposed to be held. According to The Guardian article,  Saudi Arabia became the host in 2020 “as part of the kingdom’s multi-pronged strategy to open up to the world and wean off dependence on oil revenues by 2030.” The off-road race was flagged off on January 3. 

Our cars here in the U.S. are playing an important part in getting us through this pandemic. If it wasn’t for them, those of us who take social distancing seriously wouldn’t be able to drive up to our grocery store pickup lanes, for instance. Or sit in them and honk away every time we agreed with something Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had to say in their outdoor pre-victory speeches.

Can you imagine the United States without cars? Impossible. The American landscape wouldn’t be the same without parking lots. And feedlots, for that matter. Cars with “Eat Beef” bumper stickers. That’s America. That’s American freedom. Cars and highways and miles and miles of fenced-in cattle. That’s White-American freedom. Fuck yeah!

But is that really freedom? Nothing exemplifies the emptiness of American freedom more than those empty cars that we see parked outside convenience stores with the engines running, the driver taking his/her time shopping inside.

On December 28, 2020, when reports were coming out in the U.S. about the month being the deadliest in the COVID-19 pandemic with more than 65,000 confirmed deaths, Loujain was sentenced to five years and eight months by the kingdom’s Specialised Criminal Court (terrorism court). However, two years and ten months of the sentence was suspended, and she would be credited with the 32 months that she had already spent in pre-trial detention. Loujain would now only have two months of her sentence left to serve. According to The Guardian January 11 article, this move was made by the Saudis to hopefully “diffuse a potentially damaging early confrontation with the Biden administration.” 

In May 2017, a year before Loujain’s arrest, Trump set his term in motion by making Riyadh his first foreign visit and signing the biggest arms deal with the kingdom in US history. That was then. According to a recent BBC article, “concerns over Saudi Arabia’s human rights policy, including the detention of dissidents,” is one of the things the Biden administration’s new Congress wants to have a say in. This is now. Will Biden and Harris spend their energy and rhetoric uniting with progressives in their party or with the Republicans? Like they’ve done in the past? We’ll see.

No-one should be fooled by the Saudi regime’s attempts to sportswashing… Racers might not know it, but their participation there is to hide and whitewash the host’s crimes. — Lina al-Hathloul, The Guardian, January 5.

It doesn’t matter that Loujain might just have two months of her sentence left to serve. Her supporters and those of us who don’t take our freedom to drive for granted see her sentencing as an unconscionable act. And we see the Land of the Free’s pride in its freedom as a whitewash hiding imperial crimes that it has carried out in the Middle East. Like a sport. With their Humvees and $110 billion arms deals. Shameful. Let’s just call American foreign policy for what it is: Freedomwashing.

The Biden administration needs to be as vigilant in holding the kingdom’s atrocities accountable as it is about Trump and his assault on American democracy. Why wait, Biden? Unite with your own party. Now! Why wait for another two months? Free Loujain al-Hathloul Now!

JatiIndia Flag of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future: Masrat Zahra

“Rescue us from the sub-jail – what you call the media ‘facilitation’ centre,” reads a sign held up by a pair of, what you, JatiIndia — my name for this country of jatis/castes — call “anti-national” hands. Who qualifies as a so-called anti-national? Anyone who resists and exposes JatiIndian supremacy within the boundaries of the country, and in occupied Kashmir.

“Fake News!” shout the Narendra Modi government and its minions when Kashmiri photojournalist Masrat Zahra and other reporters like her go about doing their job, documenting the violence of occupation and usurpation. And what qualifies as “fake news?” Any words and imagery that challenge and oppose supremacy and occupation.

If JatiIndia’s right-wing BJP government is going to prefix words like “news” and “national’ with words like “fake” and “anti,” then let’s demand that they also apply them to those that utter them:  the government and anyone who is a perpetrator of violence and hate talk — ek sachh ka virodhi aur nakli deshbhakt (an anti-truth-cum-fake-patriot); and to the passive bystanders who just turn their heads away and stay silent.

What’s the godawful vision of these anti-truth-cum-fake-patriots? It includes rendering invisible the humanity and dignity of Kashmiris that predates the August 2019 revocation of Article 370, the loss of statehood and the division of their land into Bantustans. What followed in the sixteen months since and continues today resembles the Israeli laboratory of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which include the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. JatiIndia has now officially set in motion its profiteering agenda that by design attempts to “alter the demographic composition” of the region, “marginalize them in their own land, erode structures of self-government, disempower them politically and muzzle all voices of protest.”

Since August 2019, journalists like Zahra have been systematically targeted with, among other things, a months-long internet shutdown, mobile internet restricted to 2G speed, a government-sponsored media centre, “Cyber Police,” arrests, harassment, summons, intimidation, thrashings, draconian laws, and policies like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the “Media Policy-2020.” According to National Conference and Peoples Conference spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar,  “This policy obliquely stifles media’s right to ask tough questions and highlight lacunae in the administration. It seems to be a remnant of colonial-era censorships and will choke the already constrained space for free working of the press.”

I have been to jail many times because of reporting. I was summoned by the Cyber Police in March because of my tweet. I gave them in writing that I wont make any mistakes from now on. Then there was an issue with Masrat Zahra, Peerzada Aashiq, and Gowher Geelani. They summoned many journalists after them. We are insecure in the field. — Peerzada Waseem, Kashmir News Observer, The Kashmir Walla, December 26.

26-year-old Zahra was charged in April with posting, yes, “anti-national” content on social media. She wasn’t arrested, but as she says, it feels like a “sword hanging on my head” and that the charge “was filed ‘to send a message’ that even a young female journalist would not be spared.”

Part of a continuing series, these JatiIndia Flags feature a face of resistance to upper-caste violence and injustice at the center of a modified flag of India. The color orange symbolizes Hindutva politics; blue—a color historically adopted by the Dalit movement—here represents the country’s Dalits, Kashmiris, Adivasis and other minorities; the bottom green bar embodies the regions ecological foundations endangered by the ideology of extractive capitalism; the circular image, replacing the Dharma Chakra (Wheel of Law) signifies the view through the crosshairs of a saffron (Hindu nationalist) gunsight. 

The blue strip is done in chain-stitch embroidery, illustrating the long chain of atrocities that have been carried out by JatiIndia over the years on its own people, and the people of occupied Kashmir. Each blue chain-stitch, of which there are more than twenty thousand, represents a face of resistance. 

This week’s flag features a portrait of Zahra and all that she stands for and for which she is a target: she’s a Kashmiri, a woman, a reporter, and she resists occupation.

The series so far:

JatiIndia, December 24, 2020, Manisha Valmiki, chain-stitch embroidery
JatiIndia, December 13, 2020, Anand Teltumbde, chain-stitch embroidery
JatiIndia, October 16, 2017, Gauri Lankesh, watercolor
JatiIndia, August 15, 2017, The sang-bazan (stone pelters), Occupied Kashmir, pen & ink
JatiIndia, the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom, March 1, 2017, watercolor
JatiIndia, February 10, 2017, Teesta Setalvad, pen & ink
JatiIndia, December 23, 2016, pellet-gun victim, Occupied Kashmir, pen & ink
JatiIndia, March 29, 2016, Shaista Hameed and Danish Farooq, Occupied Kashmir, acrylic on paper
JatiIndia, March 29, 2016, Rohith Vemula, acrylic on paper